The government of Japan moved forward this week with its controversial plan to reverse its 70-year ban on sending its military forces to fight in conflicts abroad, and many Japanese as well as others in the region cried out in anger.
The legislation making that possible was approved by the lower house of Parliament on Thursday and is virtually certain to become law. Japanese society has embraced pacifism since the end of World War II, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s moves to bolster the country’s security and give Japan a larger role in global affairs have spurred debate for months. We asked our readers in Japan, China, South Korea and elsewhere to tell us their views on this highly delicate — and for some, highly personal — issue.
Readers in Japan supporting the package of 11 bills said it was necessary for their country to maintain its security in a threatening world. “We need a legitimate way to protect ourselves from possible threats from outside,” Yu Julia Iwasaki, 30, who lives in Tokyo, wrote on Facebook.
But many more people, representing the majority of Japanese, cried foul.
Many criticized the process, arguing that the legislation violates Japan’s postwar Constitution, and they expressed anger at Mr. Abe for pushing the bills through.
Others said the move by the government ignored the voices of the people. Another 30-year-old in Tokyo wrote that this “could cast doubt on Japanese democracy itself.”
One commenter on Facebook, who described himself as a foreigner living in Japan, accused Mr. Abe of being a “faithful pet dog for the U.S.A.”
Readers in China and South Korea, two countries that have historical disputes with Japan, also responded with anger over the bills, though for different reasons.
Here is a selection of the responses, many of which have been translated into English. They have been edited and condensed for clarity.
RESPONSES FROM JAPAN
Anger at the Government
We cannot read the Constitution in that way. Why didn’t they call for a constitutional amendment in a fair way? I’m furious from the bottom of my heart with the government for using cheap tricks and being full of lies.
— Etsuro Kobayashi, via Facebook.
Prime Minister Abe pushed through this new legislation on the basis that he was reinterpreting the Japanese Constitution. In reality, though, it amounts to a comprehensive gutting of Article 9. Leaving the morality of the bill aside for a moment, the proper course would have been for the government to call for a national referendum on whether the country wants to make such a monumental change.
— S. Naka in Osaka, via comments on an article.
Necessary for Security
I support this bill fully for better and peaceful Japan. Those who are against it claiming “no war” and “peace” to me are simply irresponsible for Japan’s long-run peace. In order to live in peace without war, we need a legitimate way to protect ourselves from possible threats from outside. It’s easy to say “we want peace,” but I want us Japanese nationals to think how we can be at peace while we are allowing harassment and invasion from outside as we speak.
— Yu Julia Iwasaki, 30, in Tokyo, via Facebook.
For Many, It Feels Personal
I think the government will lead us to autocracy, and then war.
I’m not raising my children to send them off to the battlefield. I don’t want any children in the world, including the members of Self-Defense Forces, to kill anyone or to be killed.
I totally disagree with the issue. Because I don’t want to send my 17-year-old son to a battlefield in the future. Because Abe has been trying to cheat our people in the procedure to enact these 11 laws. I believe most of us are very angry at him and his “friends.”
— Akihiro Nakamura, 56, in Tokyo, via comments on an article.
If the legislation is enacted, the ones who go to the battlefields are not the lawmakers but our children whom we love and raised carefully. No way, we can never accept such an awful thing.
— Hiromi Taniguchi, 39, in Shiga Prefecture, via Facebook.
I am absolutely against these illegal bills. Most of the Japanese are proud of having kept our Constitution during the postwar era and against intervention to war abroad.
— Sachiko Miyamoto, 48, a journalist in Tokyo, via Facebook. The mother of a 15-year-old son, she is the descendant of an atomic bomb victim in Nagasaki.
Violates the Constitution
I’m strongly against this legislation. It violates not only our democratic culture but also our peaceful Constitution. It’s one of the most dreadful and shameful political behaviors after World War II. Mr. Abe surely represents big business powers and military industries rather than us, citizens.
— Yutaka Fukuda, 67, in Tokyo, via Facebook.
The biggest problem is that they are bulldozing what may decide the nation’s direction without squarely addressing the real issue. It is clear that this requires a national referendum on a constitutional amendment.
— Hiroyuki Shimoda, 55, company owner in Fujisawa, via Facebook.
The government failed to collect enough evidence to persuade people about changes in the global situation that would necessitate this. Even if that is the case, an amendment to the Constitution is needed.
— Katsuhiko Inagaki, 46, on Hokkaido, via Facebook.
Our Democracy Is a Facade
It goes without saying that this forceful passage of unconstitutional security laws by the government, ignoring the prevailing criticism from the majority of voters and law experts, has shamefully proved that democracy has only been a paper moon in this country. During 70 years of the postwar period, we have been highly successful in making money, but we have totally failed to learn what democracy is all about and how we should utilize it for the common good of the society. Therefore all voters here in Japan are responsible for this unacceptably grotesque misconducts written and executed by Abe and his cabinet, which would transform our country into a belligerent nation.
— Rintaro Umenai in Tokyo, via comments on an article.
Uncomfortable With U.S. Influence
I believe realistically that in the future Japan should have its own military, refrain from the dependence on the U.S., develop peaceful relations with our surrounding countries and celebrate the glory of independence.
I AM TOTALLY AGAINST THE BILL because it enforces compliance to the U.S. to an unnecessary level. That’s not what a dignified country should do.
— Toji Morimoto, 25, in Tokyo, via Facebook.
I feel that this is a decision heavily influenced by the U.S. Well, now America has a Japanese lap dog that it can send to war instead.
— Beru Amber K, via Facebook.
An End to Pacifism
I don’t know what the international politics is like or about the current national defense, but I am concerned that the nation may go back to militarism if we continue to go along with what Abe says.
Japan’s postwar repentance will be seen as ending. I’m against the bill.
— Tomoyuki Nemoto, 50, in Tokyo, via Facebook.
Violence only leads to more violence.
— Nozomi Saito, via Facebook.
Could Make Japan a Target
I don’t support it. Both the content of the bill and the procedures they took are unconstitutional. It is a dangerous bill that will increase the risks to members of our Self-Defense Forces, and it may possibly turn Japanese people into targets of terrorist attacks.
RESPONSES FROM SOUTH KOREA
If Japan keeps trying to increase its military power with the help of the United States, China will continue acting forcefully in the region. This will put the relationship between South Korea and China in a delicate situation.
Also North Korea will take this as a chance to increase its military power and consolidate its control, which can raise tensions in northeast Asia. With this ongoing Cold War system, the bright future of the Korean Peninsula will be obstructed.
— Eun Cheol Shin, 26, in Ulsan, South Korea, via Facebook.
Japan feels so far away, even though the actual distance is not great. I think Japan will use this limited force for its own advantages, even though they will be watched globally. But as someone who lives in a country where the South and North exist in an unstable situation, I have anxiety about how Japan’s increased military power could affect us.
— Sanghoon Bruce Ham, 29, in Seoul, via Facebook.
RESPONSES FROM CHINA AND HONG KONG
Don’t let history repeat itself.
This is the direction it’s taking: towards the rhythm of war.
— Zhang Huabing, in Beijing, via Facebook
I support Japan’s militarization. East Asia needs a militarily strong, civilized, rational nation.
— Tat Tak Thad Lam, via Facebook.
Small Japan, you are too savage, but Japan’s era is long gone.
— @z2216321816, via Twitter.